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AstraZeneca's Briggs Morrison, the executive vice president for R&D there, has abruptly left the company, Pharmalot's Ed Silverman reports.

Morrison had been with the company since 2012, and was brought in by CEO Pascal Soriot to "jumpstart the pipeline," Silverman says.

Indeed, FierceBiotech notes that Morrison has been credited with giving the company credibility as it tried to shake off its "reputation for ineptitude and a weak and disorganized pipeline." It adds that the company has since "won favorable attention for several hot prospects on the cancer front as the company executed a blizzard of new deals to beef up the pipeline."

But now, Morrison has left to lead a privately held drugmaker, with little warning.

As AstraZeneca searches for a replacement, Soriot will be covering Morrison's R&D role and Elisabeth Bjork will serve as the interim chief medical officer, Silverman adds.